This week we’re doing the double on the Retro A to Z tour of Sheffield and surrounding areas and stopping off at both Matlock and Matlock Bath.
Both neighbouring villages are in the same area of the Peak District and Matlock Bath in particular is popular both with general trippers and with motorbikers who drop off there in droves most weekends.
Matlock Bath is also famous for its illuminations.
According to Matlock Civic Society, Matlock was a mere hamlet in early Victorian times, relying mainly on farming with a bit of lead mining and quarrying as well.
Derbyshire lead mining is thought to go back to Roman times but certainly the county lead rakes were exploited for centuries. The mines were dangerous places to work.
In the 1840s Matlock began its growth as a spa town, a place that people would visit to enjoy the healing effects of the natural thermal water.
Illuminations were inspired by a story of Princess Victoria seeing candlelight reflected in the river
Although the idea had been established for two centuries, John Smedley was the first to push hard to turn Matlock into a celebrated centre of the “water cure” when he established his Hydro.
Famous guests included Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Thomas Beecham and Ivor Novello.
The building that stands today was completed in 1886.
The castle that Smedley built as his private home in 1862 can still be seen atop Riber Hill.
The gritstone used in the building had to be dragged up the hill by pulleys.
The arrival of the railway in boosted the hydrotherapy trade by allowing patients to travel from London in comfort. A line to Manchester followed in 1867.
The station was designed in part by the industrious Joseph Paxton, head gardener at Chatsworth.
Visitors continued their journeys up the steep hill by horsedrawn vehicles and later trams were introduced.
The civic society says that during the war many hydros were requisitioned. Smedley’s became an intelligence centre and a military hospital.
The illuminations were created in 1897 to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Apparently they were inspired by a story that the young Princess Victoria remembered looking from her hotel window and seeing candlelight reflected in the River Derwent flowing through the centre of the village.
The Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association keep the tradition going and you can still catch the illuminations every weekend until the end of this month.